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Heist suspect's father 'at wits' end'

ryan.crawford@gwinnettdailypost.com

LAWRENCEVILLE - One local father could find few words to describe the shock and hardship his family has experienced since learning their 19-year-old daughter was arrested and charged with the theft of money from a Cobb County bank.

"We're at our wits' end," Edward Johnston said Saturday. "What else can you say?"

Edward Johnston's daughter, Heather, and fellow 19-year-old Ashley Miller were charged Thursday in connection with what police say was an inside scheme to rob a Bank of America in Acworth on Tuesday.

Heather Johnston is a 2006 graduate of Collins Hill High School and Miller is a 2006 graduate of Grayson High School.

Edward Johnston said he was made aware of the charges after receiving a phone call from a police detective on Thursday night.

Edward Johnston said he has spoken with his daughter since that time, but would not comment on what she said in the conversation.

"God gives us all free will and it's up to us what we do with it," Edward Johnston said. "Any adult has to make decisions and live with them - good, bad or indifferent."

Several neighbors of the Johnstons, who live in the River Colony subdivision in Lawrenceville, were surprised to hear the news on Saturday.

Hwa Smith said she was glad the girls were found, but had never thought she might know them.

"We've been wondering who these girls are, and I come to find out that they're my neighbors," she said. "That's what I'm shocked about."

The girls wore sunglasses and appeared to be laughing as they handed a bank teller, 22-year-old Benny Herman Allen III, a note, Cobb County Police Officer Wayne Delk said.

Allen, Miller, Johnston and 27-year-old Michael Chastang were all charged with felony theft-related charges, Delk said. Because the teller was involved in the theft, it is not considered a robbery.

"The teller was in on it," Delk said.

All four were also charged with possession of less than an ounce of marijuana, and Miller and Chastang were charged with trafficking MDMA, known on the street as ecstasy.

But this wasn't Miller and Heather Johnston's first run-in with the law.

Miller, a Loganville resident, had an outstanding warrant for violating probation from Clayton County, Delk said.

A warrant for Heather Johnston's arrest on criminal trespass charges was issued in December after residents of the River Colony subdivision reported seeing someone outside a home.

According to a police report, Heather Johnston said she entered her parent's house through the back window because she did not have a key.

Edward Johnston said his daughter has not lived at their home on Christiana Drive in four months, but would not comment on any past incidents.

Doris Quinn, who has lived on Christiana Drive for 14 years, said she has seen the Johnstons at the pool in the summer.

"I read the article in the Post this morning and I was shocked to see my street name in it," Quinn said. "That's not the kind of media attention we want."

Residents said the street is in a fairly quiet neighborhood in a good school system.

"I just can't believe that someone who would rob a bank would live on our road," Lizzette Garcia said.